New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio assured Eric Garner’s mother on Wednesday that her son “did not die in vain,” promising that Garner’s 2014 death at the hands of a police officer in Staten Island prompted training to end racially biased policing. However, four years after the police killed Garner, implementation of the training has been slow and bias has continued.
De Blasio made the vow in response to Gwen Carr’s question at a town hall meeting on Staten Island about whether the city would finally hold the officers involved in her son’s death accountable after all these years, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday night.
“I do not want to play anymore political procrastination,” Carr stated. “It’s been four years since my son’s murder and it’s been very hard on me and my family, but it seems like the administration is blocking the accountability for the, you know, for the justice for my son and this just makes the four years worse for me.”
The New York Police Department (NYPD) only just this month began disciplinary proceedings against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who killed Garner by using an illegal chokehold as the unarmed man cried “I can’t breathe.” A grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo, and de Blasio wanted to wait until after the federal government made a decision on whether to pursue civil rights charges against the officer. That decision never came, and four years later the mayor finally acted.
“A lot of change has happened, and a lot of people’s lives will be the better for it,” the mayor told Carr on Wednesday.
The reality is much different.
A disturbing six-minute video began circulating on social media July 17 that purported to show NYPD officers dragging an unconscious suspect from a house and then dropping him on the street next to a police cruiser, as people in the crowd urge them to call an ambulance.
Many folks in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, were still outraged that officers didn’t try to de-escalate a fateful encounter in April with Saheed Vassell, a mentally ill man, before gunning him down as he waved an object that looked like a gun.
At the same time, the city was offerering a weak response to evidence that officers were still targeting Black and Latino men for marijuana possession arrests. By one estimate, people of color in New York accounted for up to 90 percent of marijuana arrests in neighborhoods where they represented just 10 percent of the population.